The members of the late Witness Lee’s movement, known as the “Church of Recovery” or the “Local Church” are confused because of the odd teachings taught by the latter. Many Christian apologists consider the “Local Church” a cult because of the statements made by Lee. Inspite of their seemingly “orthodox” claim on the triune God teaching and so-called “opposition” against the heresy of modalism (Check their site) Lee’s writings contain belief of unorthodox doctrines in many Living Stream Literatures, one of which is about God. In his book entitled, the Organism of the Triune God in the Organic Union of His Divine Trinity, Lee unfolds,
“Our organic union with the Lord is also in the Spirit. Christ and the Spirit are not two separate persons. They are one person. This is a divine mystery that is beyond human understanding. Christ is the Spirit. (1 Cor. 15:45b; 2 Cor. 3:17)” [p. 21, Nov. 1988].
Quoting those two verses along with 1 Cor. 6:17; Rom. 8:9-11 and Acts 16:6-7 to conclude that “Jesus is the Spirit” (i.e. Holy Spirit, the third person of the triune God) is not dividing the word of truth correctly. The Son and the Spirit according to the Scripture are not “one” person like what Lee presupposes. Because of these, many respected evangelicals exposed Lee of being a modalist. In their effort not to be branded as a modalist, the “Local Church” apologist constructed a refutation under their subject “Beliefs and Practices,” that is, “Do you hold a modalistic view of the Trinity?” Their official answer is,
“Certainly not! Modalism is heretical. Instead of teaching that the Three of the of the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, co-exist eternally, modalism claims that They are merely temporary manifestations of the divine essence. We believe according to the Bible that God is essentially three in one and one in three. We surely recognized eternal distinction within the Godhead. However, our emphasis with respect to the Trinity is not on the doctrinal analysis of the nature of God, but on the dispensing of the Triune God into us as our life and our all. Our orthodoxy concerning the doctrine of God must be determined whether or not our teaching is in accord with the pure Word of God. When our belief concerning the Triune God is considered fairly in the Light of the Scripture, it will be found that neither in modalism nor in tritheism, but in the revelation of the Triune God according to the pure Word of God.” (Taken from their site emphasis is mine.)
In first reading, you will immediately conclude that Witness Lee is “orthodox” in his belief. On the contrary, this statement is a double-talk because he is not as sound as you think he is. If we will take the time to study what he means by the word “dispensing,” he will show up to be one of the modern-day modalist of our time who is very much confuse on where to stand. Lee had to emphasize on the dispensing of the Triune God into [the person] as [his] life and [his] all because when Jesus Christ came to earth (incarnation), died, and was resurrected, the divine Trinity was consummated [i.e. completed or perfected in the Spirit.
Allow me to quote his complete statement on that said booklet:
“The Spirit is also the consummation of the processed Triune God (Matt. 28:19b). God’s Trinity was perfect, but it needed to be consummated. The divine Trinity was consummated through His incarnation, death, and resurrection. In resurrection, the divine Trinity was consummated in the Spirit. Thus the Spirit is the consummation of the divine Trinity. In other words, the processed Spirit is the consummated Triune God. A raw fish is not consummated, but a cooked fish is consummated.”
The Triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) will remain to be the Triune God of the Bible even though there are no incarnation, death, and resurrection that would take place. This truth can be seen in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God…” where the word “God” was translated from the Hebrew word Elohim suggesting a clear hint of the Triune God that was fully revealed in the New Testament. Lee even had to illustrate his “consummated Triune God” by means of a “cooked fish” as if the Three persons cannot be completed without the incarnation, death, and resurrection. But he also wrote The Triune God existed before incarnation, but He had not been consummated and to be consummated will have to pass the incarnation, death, and resurrection. [They] are baptized into the Spirit, who is the consummation of the Triune God.
In explaining Matt. 28:19, Lee’s modalistic theology surface:
“The ‘name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ is the one name for the Trinity. The name indicates the person. To baptize people into such a name is to baptize them into the person of the divine Trinity.”
You will notice that Lee emphasizes on the word “name” as if to mean that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are simply one person by stating baptize them into the person [not ‘persons’] of the divine Trinity. I believed the word “name” (singular) not “names” (plural) was used to guard the verse from possible tritheistic interpretation. While the words “of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” are used instead of “of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” to guard it from possible modalistic meaning. In their apologetic booklet entitled Modalism, Tritheism, or the Pure Revelation of the Triune God According to the Bible written by Ron Kangas as a “refutation” to Robert and Gretchen Passantino of the Christian Research Institute, he explained the “Local Church’s” view on Isaiah 9:6:
“One aspect of the mystery of the Triune God is that the Father and the Son are one, yet are two…. Isaiah 9:6 clearly says that the Son is called the Everlasting Father. Therefore, as mysterious as it may seem, the Son must be the Father, just as the child is the Mighty God. We must believe what the pure word of the Bible says. However, believing according to this verse that the Son is the Father does not mean that we believe that there is no distinction between them, for we have already cited verses which indicate that such a distinction exists.”
In spite of the obvious fact that the words “Everlasting Father” came from the Hebrew word “abiad” to denote the Son’s “eternality” Lee continues to fly away from proper biblical exegesis. The words “Everlasting Father” is not a term to describe a relationship but rather it’s more of the Messiah’s description about His nature being “Father of eternity.” To avoid again of being branded as a modalist Kangas immediately states, “such a distinction exists” between the Father and the Son. Allow me to quote some of Lee’s writings in order for you to investigate and check for yourself whether or not he is a confuse theologian,
“The Son who prays is the Father who listens….”
“…the Son is the Father, and the Son is also the Spirit. Otherwise, how could these three be one God?”
Many “Local Church” adherents in the Philippines do not know simply where to stand in this kind of doctrine. As long as they adhere on Lee’s manner of interpretation, they will continue to be blind followers of his fallacious exegesis. We know also from a fact that that they even developed and published their own version of the Bible called “Recovery Version of the Bible” containing the notes of Witness Lee and interprets the Bible in the light of his teachings. As long as they continue to hold on to Lee’s teachings and explanations they cannot really understand the true meaning of the biblical Trinity which was once and for all entrusted to the saints.
According to a CRI article entitled A 'Local Church’ Update: Witness Lee Dies – Stream Ministry Continues Expansion Plans:
“Next to the Church of Scientology, the Local Church probably has been the most litigious religious group with regard to taking swift legal action against critics. Over the years it has used legal threats and actions to dissuade authors and publishers from printing any critical evaluation of Witness Lee and the Local Church’s publications.
“The well-known Berkeley apologetics and cult-watching group, Spiritual Counterfeits Project, had to reorganize after declaring bankruptcy because of its financial inability to defend itself against the relentless and prolonged litigations. Many other Christian authors and publishers have either refused to publish criticism of Local Church teachings and practices, or they have modified their critical approach to provide the least amount of legally vulnerable words and actions in criticism of Witness Lee and the Local Church.
“The Local Churches defend their actions against other Christians and churches as merely protecting their own reputation in the community, within Christian and secular circles, and within their own fellowship. The Local Churches have also asserted their displeasure with critical materials to many Christian bookstores, causing a number of them to feel intimidated and to think they will suffer severe repercussions if they don’t remove the critical literature from their inventory.
“Beleaguered critics, on the other hand, affirm their right to free speech, which includes their right to publish written and oral criticisms of the public works of other religious teachers. They see the Local Churches’ aggressive counterattack as an intense effort to strip them of their right to freely speak regarding religious matters, including the right to declare anyone’s doctrinal teachings “heretical” or untrue from one’s own understanding of Scripture.”
Inspite of this, The Bereans: Apologetics Research Ministry will continue to expose heretical beliefs in the light of God’s Word. We still believe that our country has given us freedom to express ourselves publicly in terms of religious beliefs.
- The Teachings of Witness Lee of the "Local Church" (Church of Recovery)
- Witness Lee and Watchman Nee Believe Jesus is the Holy Spirit.
-  Webster’s New World Dictionary of American
English, Third College Edition, (Cleveland, Ohio: Simon
and Schuster, Inc., 1988)
-  Lee, Witness, Organism of the Triune God in the
Organic Union of His Divine Trinity, (Anaheim, CA:
Living Stream Ministry, 1988), p. 24.
-  Ibid., p. 24.
-  Ibid., p. 40.
-  Ibid., p. 40.
-  Ibid., p. 42.
-  Modalism, Tritheism, or the Pure Revelation of
the Triune God According to the Bible, (Anaheim, CA:
Living Stream Ministry, 1994), p. 24.
-  Lee, Witness, Concerning the Trinue God,
(Anaheim, CA: Living Stream Ministry, 1994), p. 25.
-  Ibid., p. 23.